The Spike

Another diet soup


Okay not a diet soup, but it’s another fish soup, which amounts to the same thing. From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall this time. It is a tiny bit of a faff what with the roasting of the tomatoes, but it is worth it.

For 2

1 cooking chorizo

about 300 ml fish stock if you can find it. If not, chicken or veg stock will do.

4 large tomatoes

1 onion

2 sticks celery

1 tsp fennel seeds

olive oil

salt and pepper

4 cod cheeks – or a fillet of firm white fish

4 scallops

6 large prawns (I keep a bag of frozen prawns for time such as these)

2 heads of pak choi

1 First make your tomato sauce. Halve the tomatoes and put them in an oven dish, then sprinkle with squished or grated garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil. Roast for 40 mins at 180C

2 Meanwhile in a large pan with a bit of oil, slice and cook off your chorizo for about 5 minutes until it is browning at the edges. Then add chopped celery and onion and fennel seed and cook this gently for ten minutes.

3 Now pass the tomatoes through a sieve – this is actually quite fun – and add it to the chorizo and onion, then pour over the stock and simmer all this for about 20 minutes.

4 Slice your pak choi into 1cm pieces and add to the soup, then carefully put your fish in (if you’re using a fillet, cut into pieces), put a lid on and simmer this again for another 10 mins.

You *ought* not need to add any more salt, but check just to make sure. I’m eating a bowlful of this right now and it is super yummy and I reckon about 500 cals a bowl – if you care about such things.


White shoes


It seems at the moment trends can be picked and forecasted just by imagining the things from the 80s and early 90s that you never imagined, even in your wildest dreams, could make a comeback: slip dresses over t-shirts, silky green bomber jackets, scrunchies… white shoes…

Particularly the white shoes – their strong, cliched association with general horrifying slaggery is overpowering and persistent. One can imagine arriving at a party in them and people falling about laughing.

But white shoes will be a big thing this Spring/Summer and into Autum this whole year. If you were to buy a pair now you would not be disappointed. People would initially look at you like “Wah?” but you simply have to turn your nose up at them and say “You know nothing about fashion.” And then suddenly they will be absolutely everywhere and everyone will be wearing them and those “Wah?” people will be like “OMG she was wearing them months ago.”

Behold this really good pair from Uterque (please just imagine the umlaut there) – £95.


OR H&M are doing a sort of Celine copy for £24.99. Simple prejudice leads me to believe that the H&M shoes will be little other than blistering heel-shredders, but that possibly really is just prejudice.


Anyway, stagger back in horror, eyes bleeding if you like – but Alexandra Shulman was wearing a pair with a full-skirted black and white gingham shirtdress on the Vogue documentary a few months ago, and we are about a calendar year behind her, so buy a pair of white shoes now (or drag an old pair out of your cupboard) and you will untouchably now. And what’s more important than that, eh? Eh? (Don’t answer that.)


I love this wacky dress from Rixo, not that I have anywhere to wear it. In fact, I would probably look like a cheap box of magic tricks in it. What I guess I’m trying to say is that the model looks nice.



Nigel Slater’s thai fish soup

Praws, Lemongrass and Coconut from Eat by Nigel Slater

This is nicer than it sounds (or looks). This is not Nigel’s exact recipe, but he never seems to mind if you muck them about a bit.

For 2

For the paste:

2 sticks lemongrass

2 tsp turmeric

big pinch dried chilli

wine-cork sized bit of ginger, peeled

1 small clove garlic

small bunch coriander

For the soup:

1 x 160ml can of coconut milk

1 pint chicken or fish stock

1 large head pak choi, chopped into bite-sized pieces

8 large prawns (I have a big bag in my freezer)

4 scallops, if you can get your hands on them, cod cheeks or just some chunks of white fish


1 In a whizzer, whizz up the lemongrass, chilli, ginger, turmeric garlic and coriander with a few glugs of peanut oil to loosen it up.

2 Fry half this paste gently in a pan, (keep the other half for about a week for another project), for about five minutes then add the stock and the coconut milk.

3 Heat all this up then add the prawns, scallops or white fish if using, and the pak choi. I have in the past left pak choi in its leaf form and nearly properly died as pak choi is incredibly fibrous and stringy and difficult to chew through, so needs to be chopped up firmly if you are not to choke to death.

4 Simmer all this for about ten minutes. To finish, season with salt, a dash of fish sauce and mirin (if you have some knocking about). Throw some chopped mint and extra coriander over the top, a squeeze of lime and serve.



A recommendation from the school gates! My friend D- came in wearing this parka from Ecoalf, declaring that it is made from recycled fishing nets.

“It’s great, I love it. It’s warm and you can move in it, unlike… unlike…” and here she trailed off and averted her eyes from my massive Canada Goose, which I will defend to my dying breath, but does actually mean that I can barely move or turn my head and has half a dead coyote on the back of it 😦

Anyway I had a quick look at Ecoalf and they’ve got a sale on, which as you know means that there’s nothing in the right colour or size, but keep an eye on it for their spring stock if you’re in the market for this sort of thing.



Sale bargains & other items

A few things that have caught my eye in the last few days.

This very cute spring dress from TopShop now only £78, very much reduced, on Net a Porter, with lots of sizes still available.


This “Pheobe” top from Boden kids’ section – I think this looks like something very chic that my friend Anna might wear (only hers would be from Chloe). I cannot attest to the fit of a size 15-16yo because I am waiting to get my newest Boden catalogue with discount code before I buy anything.

Prices vary – about £22

I cannot justify this Dandelion dress as I have enough winter florals – but I do love it and adheres to my current Divorce wardrobe fetish. Anyway someone’s got to wear it and it might as well be you.



Adventures in eye cream


I have come to the conclusion that the only eye cream that makes any difference that I can see is Lansinoh. Amalgamating all the things I’ve read about eye cream (though it’s all just such rank bullshit) it seems that general eye tiredness, puffiness, dark circles and so on is mostly – not totally but mostly – dehydration.

So if one is to take advantage of the quiet January hibernation pact with fellow road-travellers a way to wake up with better eyes is to do this: go to bed at a reasonable hour, having had not more than one glass of wine, drink a glass of water, take your make up off, apply night face cream then Lansinoh around your eyes. In the morning you will not look like Karlie Kloss, but you will look better than if you had not done it.

To maximise the effect of all your various unguents, wash your face and apply these creams about an hour before you go to bed, so’s not to have to try to get to sleep with a sticky face.

You will now all tell me that this or that amazing cream is amazing for eyes. And that’s all very well but the fact is that I doubt they are appreciably better than Lansinoh, and it is only £7. Eight-Hour Cream also works – and we’ve all got a tube of that somewhere.


Being as I am a veteran of newspapers and magazines, the onslaught of detox, get-fit-for January pieces are such a horrible inevitable cliche that it makes me want to shut my hand in a door.

And yet, if anyone ought to be reading them, it’s me. I fell full foul of the Christmas all-you-can-eat bonanza. All that booze, too. No exercise. Fresh air, but not enough. Dark afternoons. I am spotty and grey with lines like tide marks under my eyes, round my mouth. Every morning in the mirror I’m like “Who is that old woman wearing my pyjamas?” My jeans are operating at maximum capacity.

But I know better than anyone that an about-turn is never the way to sort out one’s life or weight. Not that I know how much weight I’ve put on as I am too scared to look. One has to back quietly away from a fortnight of drinking and eating everything in sight rather than screaming “I’M LEAVING” in its face.

Plus I always worry slightly that a period of excessive drinking changes my DNA to the critical point of dependence, whereby if I was to stop drinking entirely I might have a stroke.

I know what it is that I have to do in order to get back to normal, it’s just a question of settling back into that zone, the white-fish-and-greens dinner, no-drinking-during-the-day routine. And getting those kids back in school, who send me screaming to the treat tin at around 3.30pm and screaming towards the Zinfandel at around 7.05pm.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of spring flowers to get you in the mood for the new year. I am not a fascist about taking Christmas decorations down – but I insist that when I do take them down, ( January 3rd or thereabouts), they are immediately replaced with fresh flowers, otherwise it’s just too sad.

The Spike’s Christmas appeal


This year’s Christmas charity appeal comes via Clarissa Ward, CNN’s senior international correspondent.

Here she is giving evidence to the UN.

Clarissa recommends a charity called INARA; they are primarily a children’s medical charity – they are small but that means that when you donate, you know that your money is going straight to care, not on publicity, overheads, fund-raising, leafleting… you know the sort of thing I mean.

“It’s not Aleppo-specific per se,” adds Clarissa, “but you really know where your money goes.”

Donate here.

Thank you.


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